STILL HERE

January 25. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

So we are in the last week of January. I have lost alot of wind in my sails. Now I have to work on finishing. I hope I got enough gas in my tank. I think of my blogger friend, Minna Packer over at Suddenly Mad, now and again. She hasn’t written anything since May 22, 2021. I miss her but I do not know what it is that I wish for her. She has early-onset alzheimer. She was at a stage where her gait and speech were affected. She was teaching art at a New York university. She had to give that up. Life was getting harder and harder. But she could still write and draw. Her posts were getting less and less frequent. Then her husband got lung cancer. She was still writing and drawing through it – long awesome posts and beautiful drawings. Then nothing after May 2021.

What I wish is that she is in a good place, that she is at peace, not struggling and not suffering. She is not forgotten to me. I visit her words now and again. She is still a teacher, teaching me about life, strength, resilience and art. I am encouraged and inspired by her to work a little harder in finding my words and finish what I had started. I had not met her but have exchanged a few words a few times. I know her only through her stories. They are powerful. That is what I wish for myself, that ability to stir another with my stories and art. I hope my words are meaningful. I hope my stories can entertain and help someone. My words and art give me comfort and sometimes I can tap and paint a little hope when I am feeling dark. What tools do you have?

GETTING TO A BETTER PLACE

My head is all a-dither now. I should have listened to myself and put down a few words before life messed it up. I’ll just sit back and take a breath. I’ve been chopping vegetables to throw in with the left over roast beef to make a stew for lunch. I was listening to an episode on feeling overwhelmed on Tapestry. It helped me to identify what I was feeling – moral distress. Yes, I do see that there are so many things wrong in this world of ours and those in power with the power are not addressing them. And so I feel helpless and distressed.

I am not sure if the podcast offered any ideas of what we can do to get to a better place. My mind wandered and meandered. It seems like I cannot chop and listen at the same time. I am feeling less distressed knowing and having a name for what I am feeling. Tapping and seeing the letters, words and sentences march across the screen has always ease whatever angst I am feeling. I am feeling the rhythm of the keyboard. It is a soothing dance for me again. My drawing and watercolour do the same for me. I am a little stuck this morning. Not every thing or every day flows quite the same. That’s how it is.

My third order of seeds arrived this morning. I better stick with my program and do a thing or two daily. Every spring I would wonder how those tiny and not so tiny seeds would grow into the vegetables we eat. It is a miracle. I am glad that it is still a wonder to me. It is almost April and I’ve just used the last butternut squash from last year’s harvest. There’s still a spaghetti and 2 Sweet Mama squashes. We have carrots, beets and potatoes yet. We hope to do better this year. There’s always room for improvement. Growing our own food is our way of getting to a better place.

It snowed overnight. The ground is covered in white again. But our passive solar greenhouse is doing well with the help of a little heater at night. It is our second year. I am a little more experienced and organized. This spring I seeded the beds mostly with cool loving greens. We will get an earlier edible harvest. By the time the heat lovers are ready, the raised beds outside will have the salad greens growing in them. That’s how I’m thinking anyways. The weather have a lot to say about what we do. We will have to work with it. Isn’t that how it is with everything in life – co-operation and working together?

SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND

January 11, day 11 of the Ultimate Blog challenge. I wonder how I am going to write this post. I feel as if I can’t even work myself out of a wet paper bag. I did go for my ski, though I can’t remember how I got there and back. It wasn’t a great outing. I had a fall trying to sly down the slope. My legs and butt got a head start. I forgot to bring the rest along. Down I went! I haven’t fallen much at all this year. It was hard to get up. I’ve forgotten how without practice. I ended up taking one ski off. Practice does make for better.

So here I sit, fingers on the keyboard. My desk is crowded and full of paper clutter again. It adds to my can’t-get-out-of-wet-paper-bag feeling. At least I am at peace with it at this moment. I was not so this morning, digging through the piles and boxes for art supplies. They are not in one place but scattered here, there and everywhere. My head was in a spin. I want to throw up my hands and give up, but the Introduction to Watercolours is starting Saturday. I need to focus and see if I have all the material on the check list.

If I hadn’t chosen the word FOCUS for my year, I probably wouldn’t have stayed with the hunt. I probably would have left it till the night before and then get into a frantic mad search. I felt frenzied but I don’t think I was frantic. I slowed down, went up and down the stairs a few times, pulling out various drawers. I found things I’ve forgotten I bought. I found art that I have forgotten I made. I have a lot of supplies. I made a lot of art. Parts of my forgotten self stared back at me. They made me feel good.

Life is messy. I am messy. I’ve gathered up my material. I am short of just one or two things. I’ve got it under control. This is no time for me to be Wonder Woman and whip all my clutter in shape. I feel like a wet noodle. It is sagging time. I can just let it all hang out. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow I can regroup, refocus and get back into the track.

DAY 18 UBC – I AM NOT BEHIND

I Am Not Behind

I am alot of things like being angry, sad, bad, depressed… But I am seldom bored. There’s no time. I find that there’s endless things that need doing and wanting doing. I’m always in a muddle of some thing or other. I have stashes of unfinished projects hidden here and there. I’ve always been thus.

I hadn’t worried about nothing to do in retirement. I have been retired for seven years now and haven’t ran out of things to do yet. I don’t miss work at all. I never felt defined by my job. I don’t think of myself as always a nurse. I don’t feel like a nurse at all. I’ve been a babysitter, waitress, cashier and secretary. I don’t feel like any of those either. I guess I’m a Jill of all trades and a mistress of none.

I like to write. That’s how I got into this blogging thing. That’s why I am in this Ultimate Blog Challenge. I get to push the PUBLISH button, tweet and share. It’s a small taste of being a writer with a small readership. It’s enough for me. I like the small sweetness of things. I can read a bit of music and play the piano. I probably could bring the house down but not in a good way. I can play the guitar, too. I can tell when it’s out of tune but I can’t tune it. I can’t play well or by ear either. It still brings me pleasure.

I like to draw and paint, too. I can. We all can. I had some training when I was young by some excellent teachers. I didn’t know it then. I dropped out because I thought if I was really talented, I could just create master pieces just like that. I couldn’t. I gave up on my artistry for over 30 some years. I talked about it alot but didn’t do anything till a few years ago. Then I surprised myself by seeing that I am creative and artsy fartsy. I am enjoying it now.

I don’t think I’m behind or that it’s too late. I am exactly where I am suppose to be. It is a little late in the day though. I’ve worked hard today, immersed in my puddle of muddle. I like to sew, too. I designed and sewed my dress for my Grade 12 grad. In fact, I used to sew a lot of my own clothes. Then that fell off my wagon. Life is like that. There’s a season for everything. Now, sewing has come back to me. I’m not making clothes. I’ve moved on to other stuff. It’s never too late to pick up something again. But it is getting late. I’m finished.

GETTING OVER AND OUT OF MYSELF

November is the hardest month, especially without snow to light up the grey. Yesterday it rained. Then snow came and melted. It was not an easy day. It was a day of pushing and prodding myself to show up and make my own sunshine. The less I show up, the less I want to. The less I talk, the less I have to say. Is there a message here? Is this a season of silence? Is it a time for me to rest and hibernate, to restore and refill my body and spirit?

There are so many things I rather not do, so many places where I don’t want to show up. It’s childish talk. I like to lay down, kick my legs up and down and have a tantrum. I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! But who would pay attention and listen? I just have to suck it up and do those I rather nots. Life does go on, with or without me. Remember that rhetoric? It’s a truism. I don’t want to be left behind, not when I’m still breathing. I will go along for the ride. I might as well put in a good effort or else it will be a wasted trip.

I will have to pull up my socks again, stand tall and square my shoulders to face the world. It’s not so bad or hard once I’ve made the decision and begin. The words are coming back. They are marching across my screen, forming sentences and thoughts. Ideas are popping into my head and fingers as they tap on the keyboard. I feel the light and energy coming back into my body. Hope is not out of reach as fatigue and the humdrum of the everyday recedes. The ordinary is coming alive again for me. Perhaps seeing Picasso’s linocut collection on still life at the Remai Modern yesterday stirred some excitement in me. It made me think and look at things in different ways. Perhaps that’s the function of art.

 

 

 

 

ON BLOCKS AND BEING STUCK

It’s Monday, sunny and bright for most of the day. I should have taken advantage of the energy boost it gave me. But I didn’t exactly bust my ass. I had good intentions. They don’t mean squat if I didn’t follow through. I should not trash myself too badly because I did show up for the aerobics class this morning. Now I’m showing up here.

It’s almost the supper hour. The sun has set. There is a bit of wind but it was relatively pleasant walking Sheba. I was bundled up – too much. I was in a sweat when we got home. The back gate is locked for the evening. The recycle bin at the front curb. I’ve collected my summer sandals off the deck. They’re in a box. Haven’t figured out where to put the box yet. So I guess the sandals are still on the deck.

Pretty boring mutterings, eh? That’s how I’m feeling these days – blasé about life in general. Have you ever been in that condition? I have, many times. I guess it comes from having a short attention span and easily bored.  That’s my theory. I do get over them though this one is hanging on. There’s nothing to do but hang on, keep getting up, dressing up and showing  up. I know one morning I will wake up feeling ‘yippee!’

I get help wherever I can. Daisy Yellow (Tammy Garcia) provides lots of inspiration. She founded the annual Index-Card-a-Day Challenge of which I participates. Her post about dealing with creative blocks works for my life blocks. After all, life is a creative process and a work of art. I try to paint a little index card, cut/sew a quilt square or two, write in that one-inch picture frame that Anne Lamott talks about in her Bird by Bird. Now, I have a whole swack of index card art. Some awesome, some good and some just so so. I’m on my way to building a quilt. It’s slow going but I have a start. I try to come to this space daily. Sometimes I don’t make it. Sometimes I do. My self -talks help to unlock blocks. To date I have 1,004 blog posts.

THE SUMMER OF 2018

OMG it is October! It came fast. It is raining and snowing alternately most of the day. Suffice to say summer is indeed over. I’m not at all sad to see its back side. I can say that the summer of 2018 was the summer from hell. What was so bad about it? For one thing, my left hand pained me the whole time. It still does but the pain has eased and changed these last few days. I know it will disappear soon. (Hope, hope) Secondly, I had a summer cold for a month. I coughed, coughed and coughed some more. I sucked endlessly on Fisherman’s lozenges. I couldn’t sleep laying down. It was a very distressful time.

It is just a memory now and not a very clear one. I hardly remember the summer and what I did except that it was a very bad time for me and it was a volatile season of climatic changes. It was cold. It was hot. And it was HOT – up to 40 degrees Celsius in parts of Saskatchewan. There was no rain. Then there was the smoke from the forest fires on the west coast. My part of the world looked and felt apocalyptic. My heart in my mouth most days.

I welcome the new season and its changes. I welcome the rain and snow. Even the grey did not bother me today. There’s a new energy in me. I feel a bit of joy and hope in me and I’m looking forward to new challenges. The summer was tough but looking back it had many positives also. Given my pain and cold, the garden and all the raised beds got planted. Despite the lack of rain, we had captured enough water in the rainbarrels to keep the raised beds filled and to water the garden. The beans and peas suffered a bit but they still produced. I had enough energy and will to see that my parents’ house insurance came through for the hail damage of last summer. I looked upon my ability to coordinate their house repairs as a sign of my mental health. It was a big confidence boost for me.

I’m giving thoughts to the coming days leading to Christmas and winter. What and how will I fare? It is good to have some plans in place while I’m feeling confident and happy. I want to experiment more with my art and sewing.  It is easy to get stuck and staid even in creativity. I tend to do the same old, same old till I’m really sick and tired of it. For long whiles I did just watercolours. Then it’s acrylics. I have so many mediums. There’s my charcoals, soft pastels, oil pastels, neocolours, Inktense blocks…It’s just occurred to me to let loose and have fun with them all. And why not paint on cloth and then do my free motion embroidery on them? I could join a sewing/quilting club and create amid a crowd.

I’m rambling now. Time to bring this to a close. There’s so much fun to be had. My time on earth is limited. I better not waste it on things I can’t do anything about or things that don’t matter a squat.

 

 

 

 

PURPOSE, PROJECTS AND FOLLOW THROUGH

The day/life is much easier with purpose. It gives you structure and a starting point. It’s the catalyst that pushes me through the starting gate and onward to the finish line. I’m in a better frame of mind. It’s reassuring that I am not always pooling in my puddles. It only seems so. Once more the sun is shining on me, literally. I have to take off my sweater. It’s that warm.

The words feel more fluid in the warmth. They are flowing with ease from my fingertips. I am at ease in this moment with Sheba sleeping beside me. The sun feels so warm, the tea so good. I close my eyes, inhaling, exhaling..living. I give thanks of gratitude to the wisdom of people like Viktor Frankl, Caroline Myss and Professor Guy McPherson. McPherson, a biology professor believes that climate change from our heavy footprint is destroying our planet beyond repair. Even so, we should not despair. He advises:

 “I encourage people to pursue excellence, to pursue love, to pursue what they love to do. I don’t think these are crazy ideas, actually – and I also encourage people to remain calm because nothing is under control, certainly not under our control anyway.”

Those words resonate with me. I am in pursuit of those goals the best I can. They are my torch on gloomy days, beckoning onward or to sit and rest awhile. I need heroes and cheerleaders to coach me along the way. It’s one thing to get started and another to follow through to the end. I’ve had a bit of practice. It’s easier every day. I get up, dress up and show up the best I can. Some best are better than others. That’s how it is.

What are my pursuits in concrete language? The biggy right now is mastering my new Bernina computerized sewing machine. It would have been wise to do some checking. Too bad I didn’t read this blog before. No matter. I have no buyer’s regret. I have a vision of using it as another medium for my artwork. I was inspired by images of free motion embroidery. They popped into my head one day. I can do that, I said to myself. I trust my instincts and ‘feelings’. So off to the Sewing Machine Store I went.

I’m not off and running yet but it is out of the box. After hours of watching tutorils on YouTube, I’ve bobbined and manually threaded the needle. Haven’t mastered the automatic threader yet. I can turn it on, off, navigate some of computer screen and use the straight and zigzag stitches. Not exactly flying or embroidering but still pretty awesome. I think I’ll go and hem my pants now. Be back tomorrow with more progress – I hope.

 

THE STRANGER AT THE DOOR

I love the poem Love After Love by Derek Walcott. I first heard it recited by Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of MBSR  (mindfulness-based stress reduction). It is about learning to love ourselves, to be present and at home in our own lives. I’ve been on that quest for a long time now. Today, I feel that homecoming, that welcoming of myself at my own door. I feel it all as I worked on this painting.

All my life, I’ve been told that I was smart and talented. I must not have believed it. After high school, I was going to take a secretarial course. My public school principal was aghast at my decision and chided me. I have too much intelligence and talent. I should not waste it. Then I got an entrance scholarship to university. That decided it. I went for two years. I got wayward and lost. I did not fail but I did not shine either. I dropped out and became a steno despite my smarts and talent. Four years later, I became a nurse. I emptied bedpans and saved lives for over 30 years.

It was a year and a half ago that I decided to investigate my ‘talent’. I’ve been talking about it most of my life. My artistic training consisted of maybe 4 classes many decades ago. I grew tired and embarrassed listening to myself repeat the same story. I started to feel like someone who people try to avoid. Same old, same old story. It was time to tell a new one. Entered 100 Day Project on Instagram. I did a little art each day for 100 days. I’ve learned that talent is not enough. Practice does make for better.

 

So I’ve finally arrived after all these years. I feel the elation rising. The canvas is my mirror. I caress the face with my brush. We smile back at each other. Strange and strangers to each other till now. Where have you been? Where have I been? The questions echo silently in the air. So many years have passed. You have lain motionless and silent within this body. I did not know you were within though I’ve been lonely and longed for you. Now you have arrived. Welcome. Come in, sit here. Eat.

E************************************************************************************

LOVE AFTER LOVE

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

MY DAILY BREAD

My daily practices have become my joy and salvation. Seeing the letters and words march across the screen, hearing the tap, tap of the keys, pushing the paint on the canvas with my brush – they all bring me incredible joy. The feelings are so subtle at first. Now I’m infused with them. In this moment with the sun beaming into my room, I can say I am happy. It is enough.

I’ve never wanted much – for myself. Maybe that is why I’ve never felt poor even though we were. My sister felt it and my mother testified to it. Dried anchovies were mostly what we had to accompany the rice. But we were never hungry, except maybe on Sunday mornings. That was the one day the cafe closed. Everybody slept in, even if you were 8 years old and itching to get up, with tummy rumbling for food. We had a roof over our heads though it was an old one. We lived in a little house behind the cafe and near the town’s public bathrooms. Sometimes our house was mistaken for it.

Our next house was along the highway. It was bigger though not newer. My foot crashed through the floorboards of my bedroom the first day. It wasn’t my bedroom long, for our grandparents came to live with us. My sister and I had bunkbeds in the livingroom and our little brother slept with mom. Dad slept at the cafe because he had to open it early. The livingroom was great in the winter. It had an oil furnace. I would undress and dress next to it. Sometimes I got too close and ouch!

Recounting our early days in Canada, I see that we WERE poor. It mattered less to me maybe because I was warm, fed and nourished. Everything was new. I was learning a different language. I had school and friends. The Grey Hound Bus bought me books from the provincial libraby in Regina regularly. I always had a voracious appetite for the written word. The teachers told my father at the Grade One parent/teacher meeting that I have a talent for drawing. In my teens, I drew portraits of teen idols – Elvis, Fabian, etc. I only did trees in art class. My affinity for faces and people started young.

I’ve never made any money with my two loves. They were stuff of dreams. Who doesn’t dream of making it big, writing that novel or creating that painting? I didn’t work at making the dreams come true. I earned my living and money the hard way. I waitressed, worked in an office and slung bedpans as a registered nurse in a teaching hospital. Oh, glory days! Now in the aftermath of my youth, I have lived, am seasoned and have suffered. I have something to say and perhaps the fire to say it.

I was not a child genius, who upon falling out of my mother’s womb, can pick a brush and create a masterpiece. But that’s what it feels like in my senior years. It happened once I decided to pick up my brush after talking about my passion for decades. I push these blobs of paint on the canvas. Somehow a picture emerges. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it is even great. It keeps me showing up for my daily practices, my daily bread. It feeds and nourishes me. God I saved the best for the golden years.